By Paidashe Mandivengerei
WITH the erratic rainfall patterns in Zimbabwe that has led to a gradual decrease in yields, some farmers have adapted to impacts of climate change through organic farming methods and agroecology.
The unpredictable rains which are increasingly resulting from climate change, have negatively impacted agricultural production in the country and the United Nations Development Programme predicts this can eventually lead to hunger and poverty.
Some smallholder farmers who rely on agriculture as their main source of livelihood have turned to organic farming and agroecology Local orgnisations like Zimbabwe Smallholder Organic Farmers Forum (ZIMSOFF) and Shashe Agroecology Training Centre are supporting farmers to switch to agroecology as a means of adapting to climate change and increasing resilience while protecting the environment.
Zimbabwe-based agroecology expert Anna Brazier explains that the system involves using ecological principles to develop resilient farming systems that can tolerate the impacts of high temperatures, droughts and floods. It achieves this through employing organic soil, water and pest management methods while growing a wide range of different crops together in the same area in carefully planned cropping systems. Often livestock are integrated into these systems to enhance soil fertility and provide agroecology farmers with a diverse balanced diet all year round. Brazier contends that this type of agriculture helps communities adapt to climate change impacts. Climate change mitigation is also achieved through reduction of greenhouse gas emissions since the soil and water management methods help sink carbon dioxide into the soil and plants while using no artificial chemicals which are a major source of emissions.
In Kawere, Mutoko in Mashonaland East province, a farmer, Modester Katsande says due to erratic rains that increased drought frequency she now grows groundnuts, sesame, millet, cow peas, rapoko and sorghum using organic methods of pest and disease control. Katsande makes use of diversified farming which is at the core of agroecology as it achieves sustainable food systems.
“When I grow maize I barely get good harvests because of the rainfall patterns, so now I just plant these in my fields as they have a good drought tolerance unlike maize. We can go for a month without rains and I won’t stress about my crops dying.”
Another farmer, Daniel Mugandani in Gutu, Masvingo province opts to rear small livestock which produce organic manure that his family uses in farming, doing away with chemical fertilizers.
He said: “I used to rear a large number of free range cattle but when some died during a dry spell I suffered financially. Now I rear smaller livestock: goats, sheep, chickens and guinea fowls which provide my family with food security, generate income and also produce organic manure which I use when farming.
“The organic manure preserves the soil unlike chemical fertilizer which degrades soil. Once this soil is damaged it can take almost four years to restore it’s nutrients.”In her book on Climate Change in Zimbabwe, Brazier notes that hotter temperatures can lead to reduced soil fertility and switching to agroecological methods strengthens the capacity of the soil to store nutrients and moisture.
Pride Chokera, a young peasant farmer in Bikita utilizes crop rotation, a principle of conservative agriculture, to keep soil rich, sustain the ecological system and improve his yields. After harvesting, seeds preserved for planting in the next farming season are stored in seed banks.
Chokera said crop rotation, which is a common farming method in his region, optimizes soil nutrients, increasing its water uptake and beneficial soil organisms. This further curbs problems that affect crops like pests, crop diseases and weeds which Brazier says will also worsen through rises in average temperatures due to climate change.
Crop rotation is a common farming method where different crops are subsequently grown on the same piece of land. This improves the soil’s health by optimizing soil nutrients and
He explained: “I use the simplest form of crop rotation where I alternate two to four crops. This helps to control pests and diseases in my field, I choose different crops to plant in different seasons. Let’s say if two seasons back I had groundnuts in that piece of land, last season I shifted to millet then this season I put maize on that same area.”
‘This article was produced with the financial support of WAN-IFRA Media Freedom. Its contents are the sole responsibility of <Paidashe Mandivengerei/BustopTV> and do not necessarily reflect the views of the WAN-IFRA Media Freedom,WAN-IFRA FR, or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark.’